The Tree of 40 Fruits

In a Nutshell

There are a confirmed 16 trees in the world that produce 40 types of fruit each year. No, it’s not a natural miracle, but rather a man-made art installation. Pennsylvanian artist Sam Van Aken created a tree that bears 40 types of stone-pit fruit by grafting branches from other varietals on to a host tree. The project first started when Aken became curious about the ‘transubstantiation’ process. Over 5 years, he created a tree that bore 40 stone fruits over the Spring months.

The Whole Bushel

Artist Sam Van Aken’s early experimentation with grafting began with vegetables. He was inspired by the concept of transubstantiation. It is a process of transformation, used by Catholic priests when they turn bread into the body of Christ. Aken leased an old orchard labeled for destruction to save the rare, heirloom varietals of stone fruit that it bore. It was these obscure and rare fruits that he grafted together to create the Tree of 40 Fruit.

In an interview, he mused that ‘First and foremost I see the tree as an artwork’. He regularly gives the fruit away to close friends and has created other trees as art installations. Aken enjoys the surprise the tree brings to onlookers. Most of the year it is dormant and plain looking, but in spring it transforms into a burst of color. He expresses sadness at the loss of many stone-fruit varieties that have disappeared commercially. Although the average person is only aware of one type of peach, his trees hold a surprising 22 varietals.

The trees are created through a process called ‘grafting’. He removes the bud area of a branch and replaces it with a bud from a different tree. By taping all this together and letting nature do the work, the host tree accepts the graft if it’s from a stone-fruit. Most trees accept the grafting process easily, but cherries are particularly difficult to get right.

The fruit of the tree bloom over the duration of spring, with massive variety always available. The rough order of bloom is; apricot, Japanese plums, peaches, nectarines, European plums and then cherries. Owners of the rare tree express happiness at the quantity of fruit produced. Aken endeavors to not over produce one type of fruit and keep a constant variety that won’t bore the palette. The trees have been part of many art exhibitions and can be found at specific sites in the USA.

Show Me the Proof

The Tree of 40 Fruit Is Exactly as Awesome as It Sounds [Link]